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|I'm sorry, Barbara
Written by JulieW
(9/21/2006 9:12 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Not universally, penned by Barbara
I'm still not conivnced that the most obvious assocviation with flannel wasicoats in the Georgian era was manly,rugged, sporting activities: it's protective qualities ,preserving one's health,and it being the type of garment worm by those who were infrim in someway or anxious to preseve what health they had seem to me, from my research,to be the attribute to the fore.
I didn't want to list all my evidence as I thought it might be boring, but I think I might have to post a little more !
Here we go.
The standard work on historical sporting costume,English Costume for Sports and Outdoor Recreations,from the 16th to the 19th Centuries by Phillis Cunnington and Alan Mansfield covers virtually every sport,and certainly every manly sporting pursuit in our era.
The only specific reference to wearing a flannel waistcoat in our era is in association with angling.
The Reverend William B. Danile in his book Rural Sports Volume II (1802) makes this sole refernce to flannel waistcoats :
...the soles of his( the angler-JW) shoes should be thick ,the leather well seasonsed,and now and then rubbed over with Mutton Suet,which will not only keep out the water, but render them soft and pliable...
The Angler's imagination is generally so busied with the hopes of sucess,that when the distance is considerable ,his eagerness influences his pace in walking and he cannot in warm waether,well avoid being heated before he arrives at the spot;the air near rivers and pools being cooler than in other places,occcasioned by the motion of the water Flannel next the body is reccommended to be worn which will guard aginst the dangerous consequences of suddenly checked perspiration
And that's it.
In chapters which deal with later Victorian activites such as climbing and cycling, flannel waistcoats are again recommended to help with the problem of becoming chilled and because the flannel allows the body persiration to escape,thereby not allowing the body to "chill", which was considered dangerous.
The most frequent references to the use of flannel in our era that I have found do not refer to manly activites like hunting or boxing, but to people bathing at Bath for the good of their health.
Celia Fiennes is quoted by both Anne Buck in her legendary work "Dress in Eighteenth Century England and also by Penelope Byrde in her article for the Costume Society That Frightful Unbecoming Dress: Clothes for Spa Bathing at Bath.
She makes mention of the use of flannel(admittedly not waistcoats) for its protective qualites against chills. Bathers coming out of the public bath were wrapped in flannel gowns before being put in their chairs and returned home to their lodgings:
When you go out of the bath you ascend several more steps and let your Canvass drop off by degrees into the water,which your guide takes off,and the meane tyme your maides flings a garment of flannel made just like a Nightgown with great sleeves over your head,and ye guides take ye tail and so pulls it upon you just as ye sise ye steps,and your other garments drops off so you are wrapped in ye flannell and your nightgown on ye top,and your slippers and so you are set in a Chaire,then a couple of men with staves takes and Carryes you to your lodging and sets you at yr bedside where you go to bed and lye and sweate sometime as you please.
Celia Feinnes: Through England on a Side Saddle in the Times of William and Mary pages13-14.(I might add all the spelling in that passage is original!)
Penelope Byrde's article also notes that this bathing costume and the flannel nightgown continued in use throughout the whole of the 18th century and into the 19th,well past our era. Cruickshank's engraving "Public Bathing in Bath or Stewing Alive "(1840) shows people in exactly the same attire being wrappped into flannels and being put in their chairs.
Flannels were associated with sea bathing during the 18th century,which was then, of course an activity to promote health, not necessarily a manly activity as it can be today:
The eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries bathing dress worn at places like Scarborough and Brighton were clearly modelled on those used in Bath, being long loose fitting shifts, high to the neck with long sleeves,made of either linen or more usually flannel( which was thought necessary to give addittional warmth and protection in the cold seawater)
Penelope Byrde as quoted above.
Interstingly Penelope Bryde in this article disputes the accurracy of Smollett as an accurate observer of fashion. He could fabricate details of dresss to suit his plot.
In Humphrey Clinkerwhen describing the mixed public bathing at Bath, Smollet describes the "accident" which befell Win Jenkins when bathing: her petticoat fell off, thus exposing her lower body,and she:
could not get it up from the bottom-But what did that signify?they mought laff, but they could see nothing; for I was up to the sin in water.To be sure it threw me into such a gumbustion,that I known not what I said, nor what I did,nor how they got me out, and rapt me in a blanket.
Here are Ms Byrde's comments on this episode:
The point of this joke depends on the fact that the bather was wearing a two-piece costume rather than the one-piece gown with long sleeves which would be harder to lose in the water . Lydia Melford,the heroine, clearly states that " the ladies wear jackets and petticoats of brown linen with chip hats". There are no other references to a change fromthe surely practical one piece dress to a twopiece costume and by the end of the century other references and illustrations show the one piece gown being worn, so perhaps Smollet's descritpion should be treated witih some caution.
It seems to me,that the main attirubute of a flannel waistcoat was to keep warm, and that it really cannot be implied that by wearing one,one is naturally pursing manly pursits,as the History Wardrobe so held:
]During the presentation we learned that flannel waistcoats, contrary to Marianne's supposition that they were for invalids, were often worn at that time for such masculine pursuits as boxing and hunting! So, quite the contrary of what Marianne thinks, it was actually quite a 'rugged' garment to wear and possibly indicative of more vigorous physical activity or outdoor activity rather than being "invariably connected with the aches, cramps, rheumatisms, and every species of ailment that can afflict the old and the feeble."
The medicinal,insulating qualities of the flannel waistcoat is a not unreasonalbe point for Marianne to latch on to. It was an established use from my evidence here, and my resaerch( also submittedin my post above).
I'm not convinced by the statment(which was not backed up by any reference material!)about the ruggged nature of anyone wearing such a garment: anyone who did so simply wanted to keep warmand ward off a chill!
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